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impacted a with author aida donald on her book. followed by british prime minister david cameron and later, a look at cybersecurity threats to the u.s. >> this week on "q&a," former harvard university press editor aida donald discusses her latest book, "citizen soldier, a life of harry s. truman." aida donald, why did you write a book about harry truman? >> i wanted to do another biography, having written about teddy roosevelt six years ago and had great fun writing about him.
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i looked around for another president that i might enjoy working on for a few years, and i came upon truman, who i remember, i am old enough to remember him. truman had two big puzzles in his life. i said, you really have to write about some of those puzzles. it gives you something to work on, to work through. maybe other biographers, other readers do not know about the puzzles or even see them as puzzles, but you do, and that is how i chose truman and worked very hard on the puzzles which turned out to be very important for his career. it kept me very interested in it this man from the midwest. this man with a high school education who accidentally became president in momentous times in our lives. >> what are the puzzles? >> they were -- the first was,
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this was a man who got into politics having failed in many businesses as a young man. the only way to get into politics in missouri was to be part of a machine. there were two machines. he hooked up with the pendergast machine, which was in arguably the most corrupt and often vicious machine. i said to myself, how did this happen? how could he possibly work in this machine in local politics? that was the first thing i had to work out. the second was what we all know about, that is how did he come to use the atomic bomb? what was behind the decision? what is the story about the atomic bomb? before he became president, and then at the decision was off his desk? it is still a controversial story. i wanted to know more about it. it was a puzzle for me. that is why i chose truman. >> i am going to come back to mr. truman, but it is interesting that this is the
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first time you have ever been on television. >> i think most people have not been on television, a country of 320 million people, this is my first time. i know, being with you, i will enjoy it. >> the audience needs to know up front that you were married to a man that was on television a lot. >> yes, he was. my wonderful husband, who died three years ago, who wrote, i think, marvelous books and was a great teacher. he was the one on television. i was never on television. >> david herbert donald. a man with three first names. >> except herbert is a family name. his mother was a herbert.
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his mother loved her side of the family and he wanted to memorialize that side of the family. when he was given the name herbert it was never a first name. it was a family name. he never used it until very late. the story is very simple. when our son was born we set up a trust for his education and things like that. he had to use his full name legally. he put herbert in and said, i guess i had better start using it in my books and everywhere else. i said, i do not really like it. he said, that is my name now. >> where did you get the name aida? >> i got the name from the italian -- my parents were italian. my mother came here as a baby. my father came here at age 21. they would not let him leave
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italy until he served in the army. it was a formative experience for him. because he was very tall, and he was conscripted and was put in the king's guard. wherever the king went in italy, my father was part of his cavalry. the king spent a lot of time in at milan, among other places. my father became a great opera lover, so when his second daughter was born, he named me aida. it comes from la scala, from the little king who allowed his little cavalry to go everywhere with him and loved music. >> in the book, one of the first things, i guess i had never seen it before -- i learned that harry truman's wife, bess, had a father that committed suicide. what impact did that have on the story? when did you find that out?
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>> that had a great impact on bess. first of all, she was so sad and so depressed, and her mother was so humiliated by having a husband who took his own life. in those days, it affected the whole family and reputation. she took the family and went to colorado for a year. she escaped with the kids. the humiliation was so great. all of her life bess truman was afraid the story would get out. it was thought you were insane and therefore you carried an insane gene children and grandchildren. harry decided to go into public life and she was very unhappy. she said, the story might get out. he said, i will protect you as much as i can. he never told his daughter the episode of the suicide until she
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was a grown woman. she resented that, but she got over it. bess like public life because there was this dark secret that would come out and humiliate her and, in the fact, say her genes were impure. but it never came out. harry protected it and went to his grave and she did -- it was not public knowledge. >> where did you find it? >> it is in these papers. the truman papers, the letters. it is not hidden in the papers. it is just there. there are also, in the papers, stories about how her friends helped her get over it.
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she was a young girl, a teenager, when this happened. her friends did their best to comfort her. they said they could not do anything -- she would not be comforted. it was such a smashing of that for that family. >> why did you spend not so much time but a lot of time on harry truman pursuing bess? wallace? was that the last name? >> bess wallace -- i do not know what it was about harry who claimed at age six he fell in love with his blond girl with curls and blue eyes. she sat in the class ahead of me -- i never let anyone else on my life. and he never did. he had no girlfriend, it was just bess. i do not know enough about the psychology of a man who will all of his life wait for a woman -- he was 35 when he married her. she had boyfriends.
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she had wealthy boyfriends. but she did not marry them. i think what held her back was the possibility that they might find out after she married them about the suicide. we do not know, but she said no to all of them. she was for the time quite old by the time harry married her -- 34 years old, in the 1920's you were an old maid. but harry never let go. it may have been that if you are harry you chase something that you might not get, it might have been that he was such a romantic, and he was a romantic. he was in 19th century figure more than a 20th-century figure. it may be his romantic side was so great. she was, by the way, a very pretty woman. she was athletic, played tennis, she ran, and she was more athletic than he was. she was quite a good catch except for this dark dimension.
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i tried to figure out what it was, but it was just a combination of chasing something he probably thought he could never have, which psychologically must mean something, and then the romance. he truly loved her. no doubt about that. >> why did she hate politics and washington so much? >> she hated it because she was made fun of. the ladies of washington did not
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like the way she dressed, did not like how her hair was done. they thought she was a rube. after all, he did not gain acceptance -- he was shunned by almost all of washington and most of the senators because he came from a corrupt background. they let her now at one point that you do not wear seersucker if you are a first lady. she responded, what is wrong with seersucker? it was a series of incidents like that that made her hate washington. she would only stay there a minimal number of months in the year when harry was senator. even when he became president, she did not like washington. the grandson has been just put together a collection of letters he found in the house in books. he claims she loved being a senator's wife. i put that in the book -- the book was finished but i managed to get it in the notes. i did not find that she really enjoyed being in washington. so we have a conundrum. >> do you still live on lincoln road in lincoln, massachusetts? >> i still live in the house. i still have the beautiful library.
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what i have been doing since we have 13,000 books in the house, i have been giving away books to archives, libraries, the lincoln museum and library, and small black colleges -- whoever might need books. my good friend kathleen nichols, with her, we have been writing to places, saying, what would you like? i have given away 3000 or 4000 so far, but have a long way to go. depending on how long i keep the house or whether i die in it and my son inherits a, he can always give the books to a favorite charity of mine, books for africa. they can take all of it if they want. certainly, africa's libraries. >> how long were you editor in chief of harvard books?
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>> i work at harvard press 27 years. i was what i call -- what you call an acquiring editor -- you look for authors, you do not edit them. i became executive editor and editor in chief for perhaps a dozen years under two different directors. >> what did you learn in that job that you apply to either your book on teddy roosevelt or your book on harry truman? >> first of all, you learn something about writing. i read hundreds of manuscripts over the years. good writing and what is not good writing. i was very particular. if even famous authors submitted a manuscript and it was badly written, i would turn it down or say, please get some help, get yourself an editor and rewrite this. it is an interesting story but
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it is badly written. i made a few enemies by doing that. then there were the authors who wrote like a dream. i love publishing them. i instituted a very large translation program at harvard. i had the power to do this. we probably published the most important history books coming out of france over a 10 or 12 your period. what the french were riding about what was called the longue duree, history over 400 or 500 years, not history of yesterday -- one of the series was a history of private life. it was an enormous success. what is private life? what we mean by it? the history book club took it up as a main selection, but we saw tens of thousands of copies of that book.
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a wonderful translator who was young and later won lots of prizes -- arthur goldhammer. then we published the history of women again, the history of youth, which had not been done before. that was one of the things i did as editor in chief. i had enormous power to acquire books, right the contracts, work with foreign publishers, work with agents. i loved it. that was in addition to the publishing -- i imported a lot of books from england. of course, i cultivated american authors. i worked in history, political science, sociology, and constitutional law. i was interested in all these. i published people from the law school, as well as great historians over the years.
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i once published seven authors out of the yale political science department in one year. yale almost had a fit. >> how about the harvard people? >> they said, what is going on? >> let me go back to this book. one of the things i wrote down was that harry truman, according to your book, had a psychosomatic illness. what does that mean? >> harry truman was able to cope with being part of this political machine that was corrupt and sometimes violent because his ethics, he got them from his mother, were very high
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and he had to do favors for the machine, which meant faulty contracts, giving $10,000, whatever the boss asked, from time to time. the only way he could cope with himself was by being a divided self. he was in his own eyes and ethical man, always a poor man, he never took a dime. what happened is he developed illnesses, dyspeptic, migraine headaches, terrible stomach troubles, really. he would hide at a hotel, in under his surname, the pickwick hotel in kansas. what he was there he started writing memos about what was going on, how he had to be corrupt and how it was hurting him. he wanted a record cap and these were kept secret, these pickwick papers, for many years. they were opened in time and used by people, but reduced in the sense of who was getting
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what pay off? what was going on? i am able to plot harry's promises and the times he had to give in to pendergast, which was not often, by the way, but he did develop the psychosomatic illnesses, which stayed with him for many years as he was in local politics for a long time, before he shot up to the senate. pendergast had to get rid of him. he was too honest, he was not making enough money for him. even though truman wanted to stay home and after he was a presiding county judge, which meant he controlled the flow of money for infrastructure, he wanted to be collector of taxes and the boss said no. he was too honest. you could not make him collector of taxes. >> we were at the harry truman library 10 years ago -- i want to show you -- you must work with them, to see what they look like.
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i will ask you more about him. >> i do not think he had any expectation when he wrote these that anyone would ever want to read them. he just had to work out his thoughts and was really agonized by the position he was in. the last line on the last page, the camera would show it -- he says, am i an administrator or not? or am i just a crook? to compromise in order to get the job done -- you judge it, i cannot. he was doing the best he could but it was a hard job. he tried to be honest in jackson county. >> how many of the pickwick papers did you read? >> all of them. >> where did you do it? >> at home.
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everything you can get on a cd- rom -- a library that is wonderful to work with. i would tell him what to ask for, he did all of the grunt work. so i got all of this on cd-rom and sometimes xeroxes. i did read them all. it is a wonderful statement -- he said that more than once. am i an ethical fool? everyone else was getting rich. there were two bonds in the county for $60 million. these are the 1920's -- $10 million a lot of money spent on infrastructure. and they said that you will never get it. he got it. he went around and said we needed. the second one, $50 million, harry truman built 162 miles of concrete roads. before then, they were all dirt roads. he built to beautiful city halls. one was an art deco style. he built culverts.
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no farmer was more than a mile or so from one of these very big main roads. he built these spurs in concrete so the farmers could get across to the market. i think i mentioned that he wrote a little book about what he did. he did not put his name on it, but he wrote it. a beautiful little book. you can get it from sources. he spent the money very wisely. every once in awhile, some slip away. he said in one of the pickwick papers that if he had been a crook he could have made $1.5 million, but he never took a dime. he was always poor and he said, i will remain poor. he was poor. >> did he ever own a house? >> never owned a house.
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always lived with his mother in law and her mother before. he did not own the house with bess until all the old folks were gone. >> in independence. could you give us a brief sketch about his life? where was he born? >> he was born in missouri, 1884. he lived -- he was the son of an improvident farmer and title trader who went bust and could never really support the family. his father ran farms. harry had a rich uncle. his mother inherited a farm. so he became a farmer. he started out, could not go to college because his father went bust.
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he started out in banking. he was a very good teller and manager of money. they said, we now have these farms to run and we need to. he did not want to go back. he hated farming. but he did. he became one of the best farmers in the area. he learned how to rotate crops. he could do a straight furrow with the horses. he had a book in front of him. he read more books while the horses were doing best. he grew hay and oats and whatever farmers were growing. he says in one of the letters, i never made dime in farming. they were never successful, always pour, huge mortgages. he did that for 10 years. i think one of the reasons why he joined the army was to get away from the farm. it was the best excuse he could make. he could not just leave -- his father died in 1914. he had a mother and a sister and brother. but if he joined the army, you
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are a patriot, so that is what he did. he got away from it and never went back to it. i had a whole chapter on what a brilliant farming career he had -- it came out of nowhere. who would have guessed that this young man who says in his letters, i was a sissy, i had no chance to play with, i could not play football, i played with my sister and my two girl cousins, that he went into the army and it may a man out of him. i do a lot with that -- he came out of the army, he was so masculine, he was ready to conquer the world. which is what he ultimately did. >> how long was he in the army? >> about 19 months. he got out in 1919. >> how much combat did he see? >> he saw a lot of combat. he was a battery artillery commander.
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the record shows he had commendations, the record shows he was excellent and probably the best in at that whole sector, a series of sectors. he kept the guns clean, protected the horses, took a rowdy bunch of what he called irishman, just quoting, and turns them into a first-rate battery. the man loved it. they did not respond to his discipline -- he threw them out. he said, you must follow me. the first time they met him, they saw this guy with glasses and thought, this could be a real pushover. they have lost four captains because it was such a rowdy bunch. he looked at them and said, i want you to know one thing -- i do not have to go get along with you. he said, you have to get along with me.
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dismissed. then the next morning, he looked at their records and busted four on the spot. promoted a couple that showed promise. brought in some new guys. and he started to polish up the team and make a very good team. it was noticed what a good leader he was -- he was sent off to school. then he got to france -- he did not know algebra, he did not know trigonometry. he did not know how to use the guns. all that had to be learned in school. he was a good student. he said it was the toughest thing he ever had to do, to go to those artillery schools. the one in france was napoleon's artillery school. a very elite group. he said he was surrounded by these guys from yale who looked down upon him as a high-school graduate.
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he showed them -- i am as good as they are, he said. >> when was he elected to the senate? >> 1934. >> how many terms? >> he was reelected in 1940, a second term, and was chosen vice president in 1944. >> why? >> well, it was sas simple one sentence reason. that is, he would lose the least amount of votes as second place on the tickets of all the candidates who wanted to be vice president. a host of others. they were at sixes and sevens. roosevelt was playing his usual game of toying with his aides -- i like this guy, and they were not getting anywhere. finally, ed flynn, the boss of new york, a powerful machine politician, went down to washington and said this has to
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be settled right now. they got to choose the man who will lose the fewest votes -- harry truman. everyone said, he does not want it. he has been asked and said i do not want to be vice president. he said, we do not care. somebody call him. someone did. harry responded that unless the president called him he would not know it was really true. roosevelt did not like him -- he thought he was still a pendergast crook. truman was not his kind. there was not in eastern elite guy who went to harvard or yale or spoke with a broad accent. he was a midwest politician with a high-school education. but fdr got on the phone and said, i want you to run with me.
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he said, why then did you not say so from the beginning? he had barnyard language when he was very angry, and only with men in the room, never with women. if you had told me this from the beginning, i would have said yes. he agreed to run. bess was not happy, but by the time he got to the convention she was pleased, and margaret was delighted. >> his daughter. do you remember -- was fdr when he ran again, was he inaugurated in march or was it january back then? >> it was march. so fdr died -- >> he dies right away. truman was vice president for literally 82 days. being truman, he actually presided over the senate. nowadays the vice president does not bother over that unless his vote is needed to break a tie.
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he was there every day, saying, that is my job. i am head of the senate. some interesting stories about how he was in sam rayburn's office -- he used to prepare for the next day's business, and got a phone call from the white house, get to the phone right away. he picked up the phone and at the other and they said, get to the white house as soon as you can. so he grabbed his hat and dashed out, he had a car, they gave him a chauffeur when he became vice president. he was taken to the second floor, the family floor, was met by eleanor roosevelt. he looked up and she said, harry, the president is dead. he was in total shock and said, what can i do for you?
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she said, harry, what can we do for you? you are in trouble now. and that is how he became president. >> to jump into one of your two points you were trying to make in the book -- he took over on april 12, 1945. v-e day, the european theater ended may 6. from april to off until may 6. when was the potsdam conference? >> july. the russians, the soviet union, the americans, and the man who replaced winston churchill. >> we have some video showing harry truman -- >> that is to settle the problems before him.
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>> there he is with joe stalin. >> and jimmy byrnes to his right. >> he has only been president a couple months. did he know anything? >> he did not know anything. truman never learned anything from fdr -- it was a transition with zero knowledge. that does not happen anymore. >> what was decided at the potsdam conference? >> they decided that they wanted the u.n. to be supported by the powers, and they wanted the soviet union to join in the war against japan with this enormous army and resources. those were the two big a thing is to be decided. but they were also jawing about what to do about germany, east germany, there was an occupation. these things were semi settled at yalta. berlin was carved out. but it was in the middle of the
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russian area. it was an isolated enclave. >> the war in europe was over. >> that was the japanese war they were focusing on. >> potsdam was in germany, outside of berlin. we have some video to show -- i want to show you the speech where he is talking about the bomb. something he spent a long time on. >> a short time ago an american airplane dropped one bomb on hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. that bomb has more power than 20,000 tons of tnt. it is an atomic bomb.
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it is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. the source from which it draws its power has been loosened against the far east. >> you point out in your book, march of 1945, it killed 100,000 japanese over tokyo. >> the fire bomb destroyed the city. >> lots and lots of airplanes. >> 100,000 people died. >> this announcement was made when? >> this announcement was made -- the atomic bomb was august 6, the first one. then august 8 was the second one, nagasaki. >> how many did it kill in hiroshima? >> casualties of several hundred thousand. immense. >> in nagasaki? >> son died of radiation later. in nagasaki, 270,000. it was a smaller number of casualties, but still immense. >> what did you learn about harry truman and the bomb? >> what i learned was number one, he was deadly serious when he said we have got to end this war quickly.
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that is why then i am going to use the bomb. secondly, harry truman knew that the bomb had tremendous power, but he did not know as far as i can tell about radiation sickness. he did not know about gamma radiation that may have killed ultimately as many people as the blast itself killed in both cities. he was not on top of that. nor was the secretary of war. this was something the inner circle around oppenheimer knew. they were to ban nuclear scientists at chicago who tried to reach the white house to say, you really have to think about radiation. then it got to truman -- they did not get to the director of the atomic project.
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he said, no, i do not know the words, but he said radiation is not a problem. if we bomb japan and decide to invade, our boys can be on the sands of japan a half-hour later at and be perfectly safe. that is nonsense. it was nonsense. that area was toxic for how many years? the gamma rays were extraordinary. it is a bomb that was created by oppenheimer. to do the most damage possible to civilians. he knew what he was building. he threw aside the notion of, let's test it on an island and show japan the power we are making in this bomb.
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he said, that will not work. he did not use these words, a terror bomb, he had created, but this is something that has to explode in the air -- it will not touch the ground. it will explode and rain down destruction and destroy everything in a 3 mile area. so i must have cities that have not already been conventionally bombed so you will know all the destruction of the bomb. that is how the war was ended. >> how soon after the bombs were dropped on japan did the war and? -- end? >> the emperor decided by about august 14 that it was over. his clique, military and otherwise, wanted to continue the war. as a matter of fact, after the bomb was dropped on nagasaki, the japanese did not indicate they wanted to surrender -- it had to be unconditional.
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>> unconditional surrender? >> that was the potsdam declaration, demanded from japan. what truman did is say, now returned to conventional bombing. that is enough. people thought that is all we had -- we had more bombs. we had a third one on its way to be put together. we had as many as 10 were being built. that story is a true story. we went back to conventional bombing august 13. on the 14th, the emperor decided it would all be in ashes and told his government that they were to surrender. his war minister was so upset he went home and committed hara- kiri.
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the clique around the emperor wanted to fight to the last man, as they had in the islands. but the people were told -- they were to fight even if they only had broomsticks. they must fight. we had planned for early november, the plan was to surround the island with the navy, a total blockade, an invasion of american troops up to a half-million. figures are tossed about -- we are not quite sure. right onto the islands, keep moving from one island to another until they collapsed and decided to surrender. >> do you find some satisfaction as to the reason why harry truman decided to drop the bomb? >> he decided to do it to end the war quickly.
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he said, by doing this, i may have saved up to a half-million boys' lives, american soldiers. probably a quarter of a million. the figures are hard to decipher. everyone had different figures. hoover said 1 million boys would be needed. marshall said, i need a half a million. all this kept flowing back and forth, but truman saved it least a quarter of a million american casualties, which is a lot of american boys, a lot of families if we had to invade and marched to tokyo to get a surrender. >> we talk about captain harry truman fighting in world war i, making the decision to drop the bomb in world war ii, and now i
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will show you some video from the arts and entertainment network -- we will ask you about this, which is the next four years. >> macarthur's rebellious letter to congressman was truman's final excuse to act. >> i have therefore considered it essential to relieve general macarthur so there'll be no doubt or confusion as to the real purpose of our policy. >> truman's action was rough and humiliating. word came to japan over the radio. macarthur had no time to address the japanese people. they lined up kennedy to say goodbye. in the united states, he was greeted by a storm of adulation that stretch from coast to coast. many believe that his appearance of poor a joint meeting of congress was the opening salvo in his bid for a presidential nomination. >> why did he fire douglas macarthur? >> i have a whole chapter on korea, which was a difficult chapter to write because akin to the conclusion after i did all my research on the korean war that it was a mistake.
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this was the war -- in some places -- this was, i think, an unnecessary war that happened very quickly with the north korean communist government crossing the 38th parallel that was agreed upon in peace treaties. immediately overran, started to overrun south korea. without consulting with the president, who was back home in independence, he went to the u.n. and said we have to do something about it to stop it. he said, i will come back, hot on the plane. he said, get a good night's sleep and come tomorrow. so he did. truman was furious with what was going on. we now have the truman doctrine, which said that if communists
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tried to take over countries we will block them. we will give money to greece and turkey, an airlift to berlin when russians blockaded. we had red lines. when the north koreans crossed the red line -- he was furious, so he backed him and sent the army to push back the north koreans. macarthur was in charge. he was told not to do several things. not to do anything on the other side of the yellow river when they got that far. >> where was the yellow river? >> separating china from north korea. not to cross it, because that might bring china into the war. not to do anything to aggravate russia. russia was greedy for any colonies, anything it could grab. and i am not going to give you the atom bomb.
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you are not going to be able to use it. three things he was told. macarthur said, do not worry, the chinese are not coming in. he got our army up to the 38th parallel. a decision was made. the white house knew -- they decided to cross the parallel to get into north korea and destroy the north korean army. this was an agreed upon decision. we did indeed push back the north koreans. but it triggered the chinese, who came rushing in, hundreds of thousands, truman said, i was promised they would not come in. intelligence told macarthur this would not happen. here we are, fighting hundreds of thousands of chinese. they pushed us all the way back. >> back to seoul? >> beyond.
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they took seoul back. macarthur started to give press conferences. he asked for the use of the bomb. truman said now. truman did not think -- instead of calling macarthur back, he decided to fly to wake island. he sat with macarthur and repeated, we do not want the chinese in this war. we do not want to bring russia in. you are not going to get the atomic bomb. what are we going to do? he said, i can handle it. give me the troops and need and it will be all right. truman thought, ok, he understands what i, the commander in chief, has told him to do. he flew back home. macarthur decided a strategic blunder -- he split the army. he had an enormous, good army. he split it in two with a mountain range in between to get to the north koreans to knock them out of the war and to get the chinese.
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that meant that if one army was hit, the other army could not help it. on the right or on the left. as a result, both were pushed all the way back. he wanted the bomb again. truman got very angry and sad, i do not want to use the atomic bomb again. he flouted the commander in chief. there is a lot of discussion among his advisers. some advisers say, you should have fired him before wake island. he said, i and the commander in chief. he did not want macarthur to get wind of what he was doing. macarthur would have resigned and come home as a hero.
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so he managed it in such a way as to quietly, secretly fire him publicly. macarthur was humiliated. he immediately came home and tried to make himself a hero. he got the parade down fifth avenue. truman said, it is important in at this stage in our history, that the president is commander in chief and the generals have got to listen to him. when he gives an order, that must be obeyed. that was the lesson of mcarthur. >> you " from the official history of the korean war. i will read it -- "so we killed civilians, friendly civilians, and bombed their homes, fired whole villages with the occupants, women and children and 10 times as many hidden communist soldiers, under showers of napalm, and the pilots came back to their ships stinking of vomit, twisted up
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from their vitals by the shock of what they had to do." where did you find that? >> that is in the record. >> officials u.s. records? >> that is right. that is a very disturbing thing to learn -- what we did when we withdrew, when the army withdrew from the north korean side of the 30th parallel, we devastated everything from their capital through the 30th parallel. we bombed them. we napalmed them. we shot them. it was total devastation, and our army did that under orders. it made the american boys -- and our american soldiers were always gently raised by their mothers. it made them sick. they came back from all of these bombing raids. they came back -- they just vomited and were sick.
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they did not want to do this, but they were ordered to do it. >> it is interesting that after writing about harry truman and the bomb, you write this -- "the korean war transformed the united states into a very different country. it soon had hundreds of permanent military bases abroad, a large standing army, and a permanent national security state at home. we can add to that a huge military force, a pension for invading foreign countries on little or no evidence of danger, and a government not always protective of civil liberties." that is you right there? >> that is me. we came out of that war as a different country.
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>> most people do not say that. they say vietnam. >> i think it started with korea. it started with the kind of war that we finally fought in korea. truman could not and it, as we now. he could not run again. the war was still on, it was still dangerous, and it was eisenhower who ended it. but that is a different story. he let it be known he might use the atomic bomb. we might use it -- he was able to end the war. truman set up loyalty programs in this country. he was being accused of being communistic -- having communists in the government, have been disloyal people, that was why then we were losing the war. people were sabotaging us. so he set up this kind of state which we still have with us now. we do not have loyalty oaths anymore, but eisenhower later called it the industrial
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military complex, which runs half the economy and which is very warlike. it makes us go into countries we do not understand their history, we do not understand their culture, but if we think they are going to become the mistake we send in the army. we get beaten badly, as we did in vietnam. then years pass and we do it again -- we go into iraq, into afghanistan, still. it set a postwar pattern, meaning post-korea, that we are living with today.
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it starts back then. >> i have got to rescue some personal questions. it is not a long book -- 265 pages. when did you start it? >> i started it when -- 2008, i think. >> your husband david herbert donald? >> he died in a 2009. he was not feeling well, but we did not expect him to die. he was awaiting a heart operation. he had blocked arteries. awaiting the operation, he died two days before of heart failure in the hospital. >> at what age? >> he was 88. >> those who do not remember him -- i have to show you this clip. this was in the boston public library. i was moderating a panel. he was on it. let's take a look at mr. david herbert donald. >> tell us about your feelings about biography. >> i guess i do biography because i am frustrated novelist and i do not have very much in the wake of originality.
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i cannot create plots and cannot create new characters. on the other hand, i like to think that i can take a historical character and try to bring him or her to life. it is in essence a kind of attempt at history -- it does not always succeed. >> what did you learn from each other? >> i find that very interesting. i will tell you a little story -- when i started with theodore roosevelt, i showed him the first chapter, maybe two or three chapters, a while back. he liked it, but said, you have not brought him to life. i said, what do you mean? he said, you have to tell stories. and he did not use the word novelistic, but i went back and did a lot of rewriting on at theodore roosevelt to bring this boisterous, larger-than-life character best -- back to live in a book called "lion in the white house." i started with truman some years later and was able to read
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just one chapter -- that is all i had before lost him. he had the same comment. he said, i want you to bring harry truman to life. the first chapter takes him into the army. he said the same thing, apparently i had not learned my lesson. he said, bring him to life more. i went back -- he was right. i was being an ordinary biographer -- one fact piled on another. it moves in a straight line. i said to myself, we have got an enormous pile of notes and anecdotes and descriptions. go back and listen to david and
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make this man come to life. it is a kind of -- the book is a kind of conversation with the reader. it is intimate. this is what i hoped to accomplish. it is as though harry truman was sitting there and you are having a conversation about his life. that is what i tried to do when i finished the book. >> what did you teach your husband? what impact do you have on his book, "lincoln," for instance? >> i read the whole manuscript and spent several days and it is. -- reading it. i told him, there are not enough blacks in the story, and not enough women. he said, that is interesting.
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he went back and did some additional research and writing. he loved to tell that story whenever we were to gather and he was at a group giving a top. -- talk. he said, i have to mention my wife -- put more blacks and put more women in. he did. it rounded out the picture much more than the first draft date. >> from this book, titled "citizen soldier," the moment when you went, i did not know that? beside bess truman's father committing suicide? >> i am not a military historian. i had to learn about what world war i was all about. it started in 1814. i had to learn military history. i had to learn a lot about local politics. as a new yorker, i never liked the politics of new york city or new york state.
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it was always to me dirty, and it sullied democracy as we knew it. i had to learn a lot about that with the truman story. there is a long chapter in the book. >> we are running out of time, there is so much to ask. where were you born? >> new york city. i went to public schools in new york city. i went to barnard college in manhattan, across the street from columbia. i won a fellowship to get a master's degree in columbia. i wanted to be a journalist. my history professor said, if you want to be a journalist to have to know something, so learn history. journalists do not know enough history. i thought that was good advice. i fell in love with history. i did not have any money to continue, so why was told to
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apply to rochester, which had fellowships. i applied and got one. i was one to be a historian. i stayed in rochester for two years. i started teaching at columbia. i fell in love with history. >> david herbert donald you met where? >> at columbia. he was one of two young professors they had just hired. i took his lecture class. i took his colloquium. >> you were married for how long? >> 54 years. just like prince william and kate, it did not take right away. i met him and then went to rochester. he had a fulbright for a year. i was busy working on my ph.d. i lived in new york -- i came home to see my parents.
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i caught up with him because i needed some advice. he said, come on up and have lunch with me. it was a very nice lunch. he was always good with his students. i went back to rochester and that summer he joined up to work on the seward papers. we met again. we have mutual friends. as prince william said. >> we are out of time. another book for you? >> a good question. i have been collecting material for eisenhower, another little book. however, unless i can find however, unless i can find enough material on
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